WEST CHESTER, Ohio (AP) — Donald Trump dodged when asked to clarify controversial remarks about Arizona Sen. John McCain after he was quizzed Sunday by a well-known veteran and father of a slain prisoner of war at a town hall meeting.
During a campaign event near Cincinnati, Keith Maupin, whose son was killed in Iraq after being taken prisoner, asked Trump to clarify comments he made in July about McCain, a former Vietnam War prisoner of war and the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
"You made a comment to John McCain that you don't think that captured soldiers are heroes," Maupin, a Marine Corps veteran, told Trump during the event at a suburban Cincinnati convention center. Maupin's son Matt, a U.S. Army sergeant, went missing from his unit in Iraq in 2004. His remains were recovered in 2008. "What I'd like you to do is just clarify that, because I think it's important for all these people here, and for a lot of veterans in Ohio."
The question came as Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, vied with Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Ohio Republican primary, the most competitive of the winner-take-all-states in Tuesday's voting.
Trump had said of McCain in July, while campaigning in Iowa, "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
On Sunday, Trump deflected Maupin's claim, saying, "Oh no, no, no. I never did that."
"They are heroes," Trump continued. "Just so you understand. They're real heroes."
It was the one somewhat tense moment in a question-and-answer session ahead of Tuesday's primary that was otherwise a love fest for Trump. Over the past several days, Trump's rallies have devolved into violence between supporters and protesters, and have recently become heavily secured events teeming with dozens and in some cases hundreds of police.
The police presence was obvious in West Chester on Sunday. However, only two protesters sneaked into the ballroom where Trump was speaking: a man holding a Bernie Sanders for president campaign sign and a woman who faced the news media covering the event and tore a Trump sign in half.
The audience booed and jeered the two until they were escorted out.
Later, a woman who said she was from Nicaragua thanked Trump for charity work he had done in her Central American country. He hugged her and she told him, "I love your blue eyes."